The Pit

Since early this year, Tianjin’s main station has been closed for a massive reconstruction project that will increase station capacity as well as add light rail and subway lines. When finished, Tianjin will arguably have a better metro rail system than Beijing, though the capital will still surpass Tianjin in bus and taxi service, not to mention the number of rail connections going out of the city.

DSC00934However, construction on the new station has been slow. Word in the rumor mill was that the station would be open, at least partially, in time for the Olympics, but I can’t see that happening, despite the fact that the aboveground sections will be built while the underground sections are finished, a costly but time-saving method of construction. (An aside: one of my students gave a presentation on how computer modeling has helped to earthquake-proof the station while building above and below ground, which is an absolute must considering that Tianjin is near a major fault line in north China.)

For now, the once and future Tianjin Station is encircled by a giant, rebar-filled pit. The old station, which has yet to be torn down, sits in the center like a medieval castle protected by a moat. The sheer size of the pit — roughly fifty feet deep, more than a hundred feet wide, and almost a kilometer long — made me recall Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary that showcased photographer Edward Burtynsky as he chronicled massive man-made environmental changes throughout China.

This Saturday I snapped a couple shots of the construction work at the station while picking up tailored shirts at the Longmen textile market next to the old station, which is still open for business despite resting on the edge of the proverbial abyss. Without climbing to an elevated position to shoot, I can’t quite capture the size of the construction, though these photos give some idea of the scale and look of the place.